The Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health's research activities strengthen and support the health of Australian families, improve policy and systems particularly in vulnerable populations, develop workforce capacity and practice and improve outcomes for Indigenous women, children and adolescents.
Key research areas
Three key areas of research for the centre include:
Current research projects
New antenatal fetal monitoring technology for women with complex pregnancies
Dr Deborah Fox, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, has recently been awarded $133,000 Category 3 funding to conduct a non-inferiority clinical trial and qualitative feasibility study of a new antenatal fetal monitoring technology for women with complex pregnancies. The clinical trial will be held at Box Hill Hospital in Victoria, and in collaboration with colleagues from Monash University and Biorithm Singapore. The device has the future capacity to monitor women in rural and remote community midwifery settings and/or at home, as it can transmit data remotely to an obstetric facility with follow up consultations via telehealth. This has the potential to reduce travel and expense and increase the quality of care for women, especially those in remote settings.
Deborah and her team, including Dr Vanessa Scarf and Dr Rebecca Coddington, are currently completing data collection for a feasibility study and clinical trial of a similar device at the Royal Hospital for Women which is specifically for fetal monitoring of women with complex pregnancies during their labour and birth. The $95,000 Category 3 grant was awarded in 2019.
Peer support for breastfeeding for Aboriginal women
Dr Christine Catling is a Chief Investigator in a recently (2020) awarded Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) entitled ‘Peer support for breastfeeding for Aboriginal women’. The Principal Investigator is A/Prof Rowena Ivers from the University of Wollongong, and the team consists of colleagues from La Trobe University and the University Of Sydney.
This collaborative, novel intervention aims to evaluate the effect of scheduled breastfeeding peer support for and by Aboriginal women, on breastfeeding initiation and prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding post–birth – through a cluster Randomised Controlled Trial. Our intervention will utilise both face-to-face peer support for and by Aboriginal women and employ innovative aspects such as social media, video and telephone calls by Aboriginal peer workers for a period of six months postnatally to improve both maternal and infant nutritional outcomes.
UTS staff involved: Christine Catling
Impact of specialist neonatal care for at-risk babies on long term outcomes
Dr Vanessa Scarf and Associate Professor Lynn Sinclair are both chief investigators on an MRFF grant with colleagues in the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE). This project will use population-based data and quasi-experimental methods to assess the effectiveness of neonatal care. The study will address the early childhood research priority area, specifically the impact of specialist neonatal care for at-risk babies on long term outcomes through asking the following key research questions:
1. How has neonatal intensive care – that is, care delivered in Neonatal Intensive Care Units and Special Care Nursery settings – impacted on an individual’s outcomes (death rates, educational outcomes, health care use and costs) in the first five years of life in Australia?
2. How do these outcomes vary by both patient-level (e.g. socioeconomic) and hospital-level (e.g. location) factors?
The project will focus on the first five years of life, examining child health outcomes, developmental outcomes (e.g. cognitive skills in the first year of school), health service use (e.g hospitalisation rates) and associated costs.
Tresillian Infant Feeding Study: Does parental sensitivity to infant cues relate to maternal responsiveness in feeding, infant eating behaviour and infant weight?
This is a longitudinal cohort study of parents admitted to Tresillian Family Care Centres, who will complete self report measures of usual parental feeding behaviours (Infant Feeding Practices Questionnaire, IFPQ), their infant’s eating behaviours including self-regulatory ability (Baby Eating Behaviour Questionnaire, BEBQ) and infant weight and length at three time points.
A subset (substudy1) of parents will also have a measure of parent responsiveness and infant cue expressivity (Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training (NCAST) Parent Child Interaction (PCI) Feeding Scale) administered by nurses at Tresillian who have gained necessary accreditation. Possible confounders will also be self-reported by parents (e.g. infant birth weight, maternal education). Parents will be followed up after 3 and 6 months to complete the self-reported feeding and eating measures as well as their infant's weight and length. A second substudy (substudy 2) will investigate the advice that nurses who work at Tresillian give to parents on infant feeding.
Enabling New Graduate Midwives to Work in Midwifery Continuity of Care Models in Australia
The aim of the study was to:
- Explore the experiences of new graduate midwives who work in midwifery continuity of care models in Australia.
- Explore the facilitators and barriers to employing and supporting new graduate midwives working in midwifery continuity of care models.
The study was led by CMCFH team member Allison Cummins as part of her successfully completed doctoral studies. Three papers have been published from this study.
Costing the Place of Birth in New South Wales: New knowledge to support maternity service reform
This project aims to provide evidence on the costs of providing maternity care for low risk mothers in three different settings – hospital, birth centre, and home. This will provide health planners, policy makers and managers with the data they require to implement innovation in maternity service provision. We will focus on the costs of care in NSW using 10 years of linked data.
The project is collaboration between the CMCFH, the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE) at UTS (Prof Rosalie Viney) and Western Sydney University (Prof Hannah Dahlen, Dr Charlene Thornton).
The first publication from this project, entitled Costing Alternative Birth Settings for Women at Low Risk of Complications: A Systematic Review was published in February 2016.
The relationship between pregnancy and birth complications, obstetric interventions, demographic characteristics and admission to residential services of Tresillian and Karitane in NSW from 2000-2010: A data-linkage study
This mixed methods study is examining the physical (including pregnancy and obstetric interventions), psychological and demographic characteristics, trends, service needs and co-admissions to other health services, of women and infants admitted to residential parenting services of Tresillian and Karitane in NSW.
Analysis of clinical records and focus groups with staff will provide original evidence about whether characteristics of parents admitted to the RPS reflect currently understood ‘risk’ profiles and whether complications and interventions during childbirth may impact on parenting.
This will inform future service design and delivery and essential skills required by residential parenting services.
UTS staff involved: Cathrine Fowler
The Primary Health Care Response to Adolescent Self Harm
Self-harm related injury is a major cause of hospitalisation and many young people and their families seek assistance through primary care services in the first instance. This research explores how primary care staff and General Practitioners in particular identify and respond to self-harm in young people, and what knowledge and resources they draw on to do so. The research will make recommendations on how primary healthcare providers can improve their practice and develop information or other educational resources for them. The research will inform policy and capacity-building activities to support this workforce to better identify and respond to self-harm in young people.
Professor Fiona Brooks and Associate Professor Angela Dawson presented this research at the 2017 AAAH Youth Health Conference at UTS on 6 July.
Tresillian Family Care Centres
Tresillian assists close to 80,000 families with a baby or young child each year. The support, care and confidence provided by Tresillian Family Care Centres [opens external site] enables parents of young children across Australia to raise their children within their own cultural context and values.
The research collaboration between Tresillian and the Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health has greatly contributed to the advancement of child and family health knowledge using research evidence. Drawing on this evidence, Tresillian continues to engage, educate and support families in Australia with their up to date parenting information, links to resources, assistance and support for parents during the early years of raising their children.